The Appropriations Committee, in joint session with the Joint Standing Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development [LCRED] held public hearings on the impact of the Biennial General Fund Budget on economic development agencies and programs.
• The public hearing began at 1:00 P.M. with the provisions of the budget dealing with professional and occupational licensing boards in the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation. Following the hearing on professional and occupational licensing boards, the Committees addressed the impact of the Biennial Budgets on:
• The Bureau of Building Codes and Standards – Department of Public Safety,
• The Centers of Innovation,
• The Maine Development Foundation,
• The Downeast Institute for Applied Marine Research and Education,
• The bureaus and programs within the Department of Economic and Community Development,
• The Clean Fuel Vehicle Fund administered by the Finance Authority of Maine,
• The Scienceworks for Maine program administered by the Foundation for Blood Research, and
• The programs administered by the Maine State Housing Authority including the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and the Shelter Operating Schedule.
Labor, Commerce, Research & Economic Development (LCRED)
Commissioner Anne Head of the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation (PFR) (testimony of Commissioner Head) regarding the Initiatives in the Governor's budget impacting her department. (Commissioner Head's testimony). PFR's portions begin on LCRED-76, linked above. The committees had few questions for the Commissioner.
The committees then heard from Commissioner George Gervais of the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) (testimony of Commissioner Gervais) regarding the portions of the Governor's budget dealing with his department.
The Commissioner shared with the committees that they expect to endure a 5% decrease in the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) due to the federal sequester. The federal contribution is anticipated at $10.5M, suggesting a reduction of over $500,000.
The committees also discussed the Communities for Maine's Future Fund which provides funding for downtown, Main Street and village center renovations and revitalization. The administration proposes only $500 in funding for the fund.
Addressing the Office of Tourism, Commissioner Gervais quoted a return for tourism dollars of 11:1. The committees requested information on the past10 years of expenditures on tourism promotion as well as comparisons of how Maine's efforts stack up compared to our New England neighbors.
The committees asked also for copies of and information surrounding DECD's State Economic Development Plan.
Maine State Housing Authority (MSHA)
Deputy Director Peter Merrill (testimony of Deputy Director Merrill) presented testimony on the Governor's proposed budget. Discussion quickly turned to the administration's proposal to freeze the transfer of Real EstateTransfer Tax (RETT) funds to MSHA's Housing Opportunities for Maine Fund (HOME). HOME provides flexible state funding to address financing affordable housing for working families. Committee members cautioned one another of the volatility of making cuts to this fund. Members of the public, including the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition testified their opposition to the proposed freeze.
Tomorrow at 10:00 AM AFA will reconvene and be joined by the taxation committee for presentation of the portions of the Governor's budget concerning dealing with the various tax shifts proposed in the Governor's budget.
The full schedule may be found here.
Please feel free to join the committee as they do their work. You may also listen online using the following link: http://www.maine.gov/legis/ofpr/appropriations_committee/audio/index.htm
Thank you and please let me know if you have questions.